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Amazon Announces $2.5 Million Alexa Prize To Make AIs Better Conversationalists

Amazon wants to make Alexa a better conversationalist.

Amazon wants Alexa to be a better conversationalist.

Amazon has announced the first annual Alexa Prize, which could pay out a total of $2.5 million to universities that participate.

The winning university team that designs the highest-performing socialbot will win a $500,000 prize; another prize of $1 million could also be awarded to the winning team’s university if its bot can “coherently and engagingly” have a conversation with humans for 20 minutes.

Teams of university students can begin submitting applications now, and the contest will be concluded and the winners announced at the AWS re:Invent gathering in Nov. 2017. Amazon has announced that up to 10 teams will also receive a $100,000 stipend, as well as Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services and support from its Alexa development team to continue development of socialbots for Alexa.

“The Alexa Prize challenges students to build socialbots that can acquire knowledge and opinions from the web and express them in context just as a human would in everyday conversations,” Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Amazon Alexa, said in a statement. “A socialbot that can converse coherently for 20 minutes is unprecedented and at least five times more advanced than state-of-the-art conversational AI. This challenge and the immediate feedback students will receive on their best ideas from millions of engaged Alexa customers will make what we previously thought impossible, possible.”

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